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Chinese bankers are getting their chance to work overseas

Chinese bankers have historically envied the expat packages and global opportunities lavished on their Western counterparts.

But today some of them are getting the chance to have international careers by joining the overseas subsidiaries of Chinese banks, particularly in Hong Kong.

In the past few years, the Big Four state-owned banks – ICBC, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agriculture Bank of China – together with Bank of Communications, have been opening more offices abroad.

ICBC has 194 branches and subsidiaries in 22 countries and is eying up acquisitions in South East Asian countries.

According to Shearer Liu, banking consultant, Talent2 Beijing, ICBC is the “captain” leading the Chinese banks’ mission overseas. He also says a few of the smaller commercial banks, such as China Merchant Bank, have also built a “bridgehead” within the Asia Pacific region.

“Even city commercial banks like Bank of Beijing, have already set up their rep office in Hong Kong and are preparing branch launchings,” says Liu.

Although Chinese banks are still testing the waters in foreign markets, Liu believes that “a further expansion to other continents in the near future would not be surprising.”

However, he does not expect many Chinese bankers to be able to shout about “international career paths” in quite the same way Western ones do, largely due to Chinese firms’ limited overseas banking functions and market shares.

Rocky Cheung, managing director, China at Global Associates, says the Big Four firms have been building in Hong Kong as their base to develop investment banking businesses. This creates chances for senior Chinese bankers who want to work in a more international environment.

In Hong Kong, the investment bank arms of the Big Four – BOCI, ICBC International, CCB International and ABC International – have been aggressively recruiting both local and Chinese bankers.

“Some middle-level management staff have been transferred from the mainland. Meanwhile, some new hires are made locally from Hong Kong,” says Cheung. Senior management positions are usually appointed by headquarters, he adds.

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